Posts Tagged ‘Bumper Cars’

water race game

Water race game on Coney Island’s Bowery is one of the tenants in the buildings recently sold by Jeff Persily. Photo © Tricia Vita

What does it feel like to leave Coney Island after more than 60 years? ATZ asked Jeff Persily, who grew up working his family’s games on the Bowery and recently closed the sale of three lots–1105, 1205 and 1207 Bowery– to Thor Equities.

ATZ broke the news of the real estate deal in November, amid speculation that the Bowery buildings are destined for a date with the wrecking ball, as one of Thor’s long vacant lots on West 12th Street was rezoned by the Bloomberg administration for a 30-story hotel. Long owned by the Persily family, the properties stretch from West 12th Street to Jones Walk and are home to a dozen game, novelty and food concessionaires.

With the acquisition of 1105 Bowery, Sitt now owns the entire block bounded by Surf Avenue and the Bowery with the exception of one privately held lot on Jones Walk.

1205 Bowery Coney Island

Water Race Game and Gyro Corner are among the tenants at 1205-1207 Bowery, which Persily sold to Thor Equities along with the lot on the east side of West 12th Street. November 1, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

Back in 2007, when Jeff Persily was asked by the NY Times if he would sell to Sitt, he said, “At the end of the day, combining all the properties and building amusements, hotels and residential would be a wonderful thing for New York. We’re talking about creating not hundreds of jobs but many thousands of jobs. I love Coney Island. I’d love to see it become what it once was when I was a kid.”

Persily’s late father Sid was the oldest of five children and supported his whole family through working at Coney, he says. “He was able to put himself through college and was a teacher (summers off), but still worked the games.” Sid’s siblings included Phil aka “Fishie,” a Coney concessionaire since 1929. The Persilys introduced the first water race game to Coney Island in 1960 and once owned the bumper cars where Woody Allen would film the famous scene in Annie Hall (1977), says his son. The Persilys are among the very last families owning property in Coney Island to sell to Joe Sitt’s Thor Equities.

Annie Hall Bumper Car Scene

The Bumper Car Scene in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. Photo via

“I started working in my father’s concessions before I was ten,” Persily said in an exclusive interview with ATZ. “In 1960 the first Water Race game was brought to Coney Island and was off the corner of Surf and West 15th st. I was 10 then and liked the idea that there was an actual winner every game, as opposed to the regular games at the time – Bushel Basket, Balloon, Cat Rack, etc.- which was always prone to people losing more money than they wanted.”

“We brought in the same Water Game, manufactured by Quinn who was the original and exclusive manufacturer at the time, and brought it to the Bowery between West 12th and Stillwell where it stayed until the late ’60s when a newer Balloon game was able to get around Quinn’s patent, and we had to update to it because everyone else in Coney was getting water games that were nicer than ours, and we had to compete.”

water race patent

Harold E. Quinn’s 1954 Patent for Water Gun Game which Phil Persily debuted to Coney Island

“I will never forget the great times I had there. Competing with our neighbors for customers on the Bowery till 5:00 A.M. and then reopening at noon the next day. We owned the Cavalcade Bumping Cars on Surf Ave. till we sold it to the Handwerker family in the early seventies. I hated working that ride, the dust from the metal floor used to get into our lungs and we always sneezed black. On my wife’s 18th Birthday at 12:01 a.m. we were working the bumper cars, and one of our fondest memories is of us giving everyone a free ride in her honor.”

Asked the location of the bumper cars, Persily says: “In the 60’s there were two Bumping Car rides on Surf Avenue. One was next to Nathan’s that Nathan’s youngest brother Harry Handwerker ran, and the other was between West 12th St and Jones Walk, which was the Cavalcade. There is a famous Woody Allen movie that was filmed on our ride.”

The film is of course Annie Hall, in which Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) famously says “You know, I have a hyperactive imagination. My mind tends to jump around a little, and have some trouble between fantasy and reality,” just before a shot of people in bumper cars happily bumping into each other. Alvy’s father, who ran the bumper car concession, stands in the center of the track directing traffic as Alvy’s voice says “There-there he is and there I am. But I-I-I used to get my aggression out through those cars all the time.”

Says Persily: “Coney Island will always be a part of me. I think I missed a lot, having to spend my youth there every day from April through September, but I also think I learned a lot. My years spent there were happy ones with no regrets. I wish all of the remaining, and all of the New families that are working there, Health, Happiness, and 100 days of sunshine!”

Related posts on ATZ…

November 9, 2015: Thor Equities Buying 3 Lots on Coney Island’s Bowery, Mom & Pops Await Rent Increase Amid Rumors of Hotel

September 4, 2012: Exclusive: McCullough’s Kiddie Park Closing After 50 Years in Coney Island

August 27, 2012: Video of the Day: Raw Footage of 1960s Coney Island

March 26, 2012: 60 Years of Family History in Coney Island End with Sale of Eldorado


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Eldorado Bumper Cars

Eldorado Bumper Cars, Surf Avenue, Coney Island. September 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

Bump and dance! Coney Island’s amusement parks closed for the season at the end of October, but this weekend–November 2nd and 3rd– you can still go for a ride at the Eldorado Bumper Cars, play games in the arcade, bust balloons at the stands on the Bowery, and dance with Miss Coney Island.

Gordon Lee, who operates the independently owned disco palace of bumper cars on Surf Avenue, says he will keep it open Saturday and Sunday from 12 noon till whenever–usually 8 or 9pm.

Miss Coney Island

Miss Coney Island, 25 Cents a Dance. October 20, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

On West 12th Street near the Boardwalk, the windows featuring the dancing doll “Miss Coney Island” and the miniature animated rides of “Coney Island Always” will be open from 2pm, along with Skin the Wire, Roll-A-Coaster and other whimsical games. “Don’t Postpone Joy,” says a sign on the door. It’s still costs only 25 cents a dance or to set the mechanical rides awhirl.

Treasure boxes

Next Door to Miss Coney Island: ‘Limoge Inspired’ Treasure Boxes for Sale. October 20, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

You can start your Christmas shopping too. The stand next door to Miss Coney Island has been transformed into a gift shop with glass pendants ($5.00 each) and “Limoge inspired” treasure boxes galore ($8.00 each). ATZ bought a mermaid-shaped treasure box but there are plenty more. Each box holds tiny secret treasures like the three little ducklings seen below.

See “Coney Island Always: Visiting the Big CI Year-Round” for info on what’s doing in Coney’s amusement area in November.

Tiny ducks

Tiny ducks inside the duck-shaped treasure box. October 20, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita


Related posts on ATZ…

September 2, 2013: Photo of the Day: Skin the Wire and Feed the Clown

March 21, 2013: Photo of the Day: Miss Coney Island Meets Miss Coney Island

April 27, 2012: The Dancing Doll “Miss Coney Island” Speaks

March 27, 2012: Video of the Day: Eldorado Auto Skooter at Coney Island (2011)

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Coney Island Hysterical Society

FAST BUMPER by Richard Eagan and Philomena Marano, Coney Island Hysterical Society. Wood construction, paint, hand cut paper and printed paper, 2012

Coney Island currently has three bumper car rides–The Eldorado, the refurbished Astroland ride at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and one at 12th Street Amusements– and once had many more, but artist Richard Eagan says Fast Bumper is not a literal portrait of a particular ride. “It is intended to recall the way rides were retro-fit into buildings re-purposed from the turn of the 20th century,” says Eagan, who has a background in cabinetmaking and architectural sculpture, while his collaborator Philomena Marano brought her expertise in cut paper collage and printmaking to the mixed media piece.

Fast Bumper is among the individual and collaborative Coney Island-inspired works in the exhibition “Art of the Coney Island Hysterical Society” opening on October 18 at 440 Gallery in Park Slope. No, we don’t mean Historical Society. Brooklyn-born artists Eagan and Marano have been collaborating since 1981 when they founded the Coney Island Hysterical Society because they were “Hysterical” at the rate that Coney’s amusement rides and attractions were shutting down. Joined by friends and fellow artists, the group took on such projects as the restoration and operation of a dark ride on the Bowery, an homage to souvenir cut out photo boards, and a 2,500 foot mural celebrating the lost glory of Steeplechase Park.

“In Fast Bumper, Richard and I poured in the rowdy and the elegant of Coney Island,” says Philomena, who describes the piece as “a fast and fun colliding joy ride housed inside an elegant Victorian building from Coney’s former life. It reflects our shared sensibilities in so many ways- one in particular is a childhood memory we both recalled of peering into the windows or back door of a closed ride and observing it in quiet darkness, a razor sharp contrast to the ride in motion; like seeing it’s ‘other side,’ the ‘hidden nature of it’s soul. I think this piece also makes reference to a Coney Island truth, sometimes it gleams from the inside and other times from the outside.”

“Art of the Coney Island Hysterical Society” runs through November 25 and will also feature special events at 4:40pm on Sundays in November. On November 4, Richard Eagan, who worked as the manager and outside talker for a shark show as well as a game and ride operator, will perform “Alive in the Inside,” his one-man play about his surreal journey through Coney Island. On November 18, Eagan and Marano will present an illustrated talk about the history of their work as the Coney Island Hysterical Society.

“Art of the Coney Island Hysterical Society,” October 18 – November 25, 2012 at 440 Gallery, 440 Sixth Avenue, Park Slope, 11215. Gallery hours are Thursday and Friday, 4-7pm, Saturday and Sunday, 11am-7pm or by appointment. Phone 718-499-3844.


Related posts on ATZ...

August 21, 2012: Art of the Day: Out of Disorder (Coney Island) by Takahiro Iwasaki

July 6, 2012: Photo of the Day: Art on the Move in Coney Island

October 26, 2010: Studio Visit: Philomena Marano of the Coney Island Hysterical Society

October 26, 2010: Studio Visit: Richard Eagan of the Coney Island Hysterical Society

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Eldorado Auto Skooters

Eldorado Auto Skooters sign by Steve Powers, Surf Avenue in Coney Island. September 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

In lieu of one of the presidential debates, let the candidates come to Coney Island and ride the world-renowned Eldorado Bumper Cars! There’d be no equivocating, no need for fact-checking. The slogan here is “Bump Your Ass Off.” We have to thank conservative columnist Derek Hunter for inspiring this wacky idea with his snarky tweet:

Of course, Joe Biden did not come to Coney Island on Sunday. As everyone knows by now, he was photographed at Cruisers Diner in Ohio, winning the biker chick vote while two dudes looked on disapprovingly. The photo cracked us up. Perhaps Coney Island USA should invite Biden and the biker gang to the upcoming Tattoo and Motorcycle Festival? Obama also had an amazing photo op in a Florida pizza parlor on Sunday, where the owner lifted him off his feet in a bear hug. We prefer the pic of him riding the bumper cars with Sasha at the Iowa State Fair in 2007.

Coney Island could use this kind of publicity, especially after Labor Day. When we took these photos last Wednesday, Surf Avenue was a ghost town thanks to rain earlier in the day. Only the Eldorado, Game World and Nathan’s were open. (See comments below for clarification.) As far as we know, the last time a presidential candidate campaigned in Coney Island was on Labor Day 1960, when the GOP candidate for Vice President Henry Cabot Lodge was filmed chomping on hot dogs at Nathan’s. Fifty years is too long between campaign stops.

Eldorado Auto Skooters

Eldorado Auto Skooters Sign by Steve Powers, Surf Avenue in Coney Island. September 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Eldorado Bumper Cars

Eldorado Auto Skooter at Night. April 12, 2012. Photo © Eric Kowalsky. All Rights Reserved

Coney Island photographer Eric Kowalsky captured the dazzling theater-style “Eldorado Auto Skooter” marquee on the first night that it was illuminated this season. The beloved disco bumper car ride and sassy “BUMP YOUR ASS OFF!” signs are here for your enjoyment for one more year.

In March, the Buxbaum and Fitlin families, who have operated businesses in Coney Island for more than six decades, sold the building that houses the Eldorado to Thor Equities. Arcade operator Gordon Lee, a longtime provider of arcade machines to Coney Island, is operating the Surf Avenue ride and adjoining arcade for the 2012 season. Hours at the Eldorado are “12 noon till closing.”

Eldorado Bumper Cars and Arcade, 1216 Surf Avenue, Coney Island


Related posts on ATZ…

March 20, 2012: 60 Years of Family History in Coney Island End with Sale of Eldorado

October 17, 2010: Photo Album: Oct 15 Tribute in Sound & Light to Scott Fitlin

October 13, 2010: Rest in Peace: Scott Fitlin, Coney Island’s Eldorado Man

March 14, 2010: Eldorado Auto Skooter: Coney Island’s Disco Palace of Bumper Cars

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Bumper cars

Easter Bunny rides former Astroland Bumper Cars at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. April 8, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

On Coney Island’s Opening Day, while others were lining up for the first ride of 2012 on the landmark Cyclone and Wonder Wheel, we went for our first spin in a long time on Astroland’s Bumper Cars! Last time we drove one of these sparkly cars was on September 7, 2008 when Astroland closed forever. Astro fans will be happy to know that the ride, along with its psychedelic artwork and rainbow-trimmed pavilion, has come back to Coney Island. The refurbished Barbieri bumper cars have found a new home next to the Wonder Wheel in Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park.

Coney Island

Bumper Car Pavilion and Wonder Wheel, Coney Island. April 1, 2012. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

We happened to be walking by the ride on Coney Island’s Opening Day as it was about to go for its inaugural spin in Wonder Wheel Park and jumped aboard. With 24 cars and a huge floor, it’s the largest bumper car ride in Coney. Totally appreciated how big it was when a bunch of kids who didn’t know how to steer immediately created a major traffic jam. Since there’s no central island, we were able to spin around and drive at full speed until the bumping and thumping resumed.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of Astroland, Coney’s Space-Age theme park. The iconic Astrotower remains a part of Coney Island’s skyline, but is no longer operable. The Astroland Rocket, the very first ride to arrive at the park, was donated to the City of New York in 2009 and is in storage. The Bumper Cars at Wonder Wheel Park are the sole survivors of Astroland that you can ride today at Coney Island. Here’s a video from 2008…


Related posts on ATZ…

April 22, 2011: Coney Island Has 64 Rides and 30 Weekends of Summer!

September 4, 2010: Go Up, It’s Great! Coney Island’s & Deno’s Wonder Wheel

May 29, 2009: Astroland Star from Coney Island’s Space-Age Theme Park Donated to the Smithsonian

May 21, 2009: Astroland Closed But Your Kid Can Still Ride the USS Astroland This Summer!

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If you’re feeling nostalgic for the Eldorado Auto Skooter and yearn to go for the first ride of the year, this HD video will intensify those feelings. Please be patient and send positive vibes to 1218 Surf Avenue in Coney Island.

On Tuesday we talked again with Gordon Lee, who operated the bumper cars and arcade for the Fitlin family last year. He affirmed that he is preparing to open up within the next couple of weeks. We have faith that Lee can make everything come together so that the famed marquee will light up again for one glorious last season of “Bump, Bump, Bump Your Ass Off” rides before it closes forever.

As ATZ reported last week, Sheila Buxbaum Fitlin and Sandy Fitlin, whose families have operated businesses in Coney Island for more than six decades, sold the building that houses the Eldorado to Thor Equities. Their son Scott Fitlin was the DJ extraordinaire of Surf Avenue’s legendary disco palace of bumper cars and his untimely death at the age of 48 left the attraction’s future in question.

“It is with deep regret that I sold Eldorado,” Sheila Fitlin told ATZ. “Due to my advancing age, the fact that I live in Texas, and, of course, Scott’s death, I could no longer continue.” It was a gift to Coney Island and a tribute to his memory that the Eldorado reopened in 2011. We’re hoping for a second gift to Coney Island in 2012.

UPDATE April 12, 2012:

Good news! Gordon Lee of Coney’s Eldorado Bumper Cars phoned to say he’s operating the ride today & open for business! The arcade will also open this weekend for the season. Hours at the Eldorado are “12 noon till closing.”


Related posts on ATZ…

March 30, 2012: 60 Years of Family History in Coney Island End with Sale of Eldorado

October 17, 2010: Photo Album: Oct 15 Tribute in Sound & Light to Scott Fitlin

October 13, 2010: Rest in Peace: Scott Fitlin, Coney Island’s Eldorado Man

March 14, 2010: Eldorado Auto Skooter: Coney Island’s Disco Palace of Bumper Cars

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